One Plus One Equals Three

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

“John,” said the man sitting across from me, “In the States one plus one equals two, but in Haiti one plus one equals three.”

We had been in Haiti for several weeks and had hired the man sitting across from me to care for the yard and to help out at our house.  He, although in his thirties, was not able to read or write and asked if I would pay for him to go to literacy school.  I, of course, was glad to do so and that is how I found myself sitting across from him on that day.

He asked if I would help him with his math, and thinking how hard could it be, I agreed.  Well, so little did I and do I know.  We started with one plus one which I said is two.  He disagreed and told me that one plus one equals three. So, I got two rocks and then two beans and showed him how one plus one equals two.  We went back and forth as he insisted that one plus one equals three. And then he told me that in the States one plus one may equal two, but in Haiti one plus one equals three.  That was the first and last tutoring session we had as he no longer had confidence in me.

He, of course, was incorrect, sort of, and after many years of living in Haiti I now know for sure that one plus one may equal two today and perhaps three tomorrow or even fifty.  After living here a while, all as I can say is, that what used to add up, often no longer does,  and what would have made no sense at all, does.

We Will Cut You Off

While I can think of a number of examples of what should have made no sense, but somehow did, here is the first one that comes to mind.

We for four years lived in a house that we were told had city water.  Port au Prince has an antiquated water system that is suppose to, a couple times a week, bring water to an under ground cistern that most houses have.

Three years went by with me paying the water bill monthly but we never, not once, received water.  So I went to the water company and told them that I was not going to pay anymore since I had paid for three years and had not received water.  The person I talked to simply said that if I stopped paying they would cut me off.  I responded that they couldn’t cut me off since  the water has never been on.  He then told me if the water did start coming I wouldn’t get any because I would be cut off.  For some reason what he said made sense,  even though I for three years had paid and not once received water.  So I paid for the remaining  year that we lived there, but never received water.  But I am happy to say that I was never cut off.

So you see, sometimes one plus one does equal three,  or least it did then; today it could be 12.

FYI: That house completely collapsed during the January 12, 2010 earthquake. We had moved from it several years earlier.

I highly recommend the book African Friends and Money Matters if you plan on living in an African country which is very much what Haiti is.

John (the mathematician) McHoul

  1. Awesome!! We get it as we are serving in Jamaica, where they use the same math as Haiti!! 🙂

  2. Jessie says:

    I love this. Real life can’t be contained in any it the box of logic, doctrines of man, the box of propriety…common sense..etc….We often say that God cannot be put into a box…but can anything? Not trying to sound like one who believes there are no absolutes…but the saying is so true for me…” The more I learn, the less I know.”

  3. John says:

    I love this post. I love you and your Math. I miss you and admire you.

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